It was one of the rare occasions in parliamentary politics when the ruling NDA dispensation didn’t blink an eyelid in using the word 'apology' over a generally acceptable 'regret'. It had sensed the enormity of the offence committed by the Minister of State, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti. The opposition, which for quite some time had been manufacturing issues, suddenly got a real one to embarrass the Modi government and also make political capital.
The top leadership of the BJP was acutely conscious of the fact that in one single stroke Jyoti’s 'Ramzade versus Haramzade' remark had derailed its development plank and had brought back an abusive, socially regressive and politically disastrous discourse to the fore. Her act was most discomforting, even unpardonable to her political bosses. After all, people had voted Narendra Modi to power on the 'Ache Din' poll promise.
The irritation of the BJP leadership was writ large on Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu’s face. Naidu at the outset agreed that it was a "serious issue" and he had spoken to the minister (Sadhvi Jyoti) concerned. Sadhvi expressed 'Dil se Khed' (heart felt regret in Lok Sabha) and Mafi (apology) in Rajya Sabha. The irony is only last week she rose from her seat in both Houses of Parliament to accept approval from the House on being introduced as a new minister in the Union Government.
Naidu and some other senior leaders had done some plain speaking to her, before she was asked to tender an unqualified apology.
A BJP leader said though Modi has not made any public comment on the issue but in the Parliamentary Party meeting, held earlier in the day, he made his disapproval known for any such behaviour. A Union Minister could not have come prepared with an apology written on a sheet and read it out soon after the opposition created a ruckus, without express orders from the Prime Minister. The incident is not just embarrassing for Modi but it is politically diminishing for him. As Parliamentary Affairs Minister it was incumbent on Naidu to have those instructions carried out without any glitches. "She will come here and will instantly apologise," he said in Rajya Sabha when opposition members demanded her presence.
The gravity of the offence committed by Jyoti at a small gathering of BJP sympathisers in Delhi gets further compounded for the BJP for multiple counts — it comes in the thick of elections in Jharkhand and Jammu & Kashmir, in fact on the eve of second phase of polling in the two states. Narendra Modi has been trying hard to keep his discourse focused on development.
After its love-jihad-centric poll campaign led by Yogi Adityanath had disastrous consequences in assembly by-polls in UP, the BJP had made a course correction and shunned all such elements and made its leaders refrain from using abusive and divisive terms. That course correction yielded good results in Haryana and Maharashtra.
The Jyoti episode is a grim reminder to Modi that his diktats “not to address the nation” have not been taken seriously by all his colleagues. He needs to do something urgently to tame such elements. Else, all his tall talks on governance and development would go down the drain.
The killing of CRPF personnel by Naxals in Chhatisgarh, first since the NDA came to power, was discussed in Parliament. Though the chair in both the Houses made obituary references but was not taken up for further discussion. This tragic incident only two days after PM Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh had in Guwahati deliberated over internal security scenario, with the state's Director General of Police, has sent shock waves across the nation.
Sadhvi Jyoti’s communally inflammable statement will not add any votes to the BJP in the coming Delhi assembly elections. It will, in all probability, make a number of BJP sympathisers either stay away from the polling arena or look for an alternate party for voting.
But the BJP’s current worry lay elsewhere — the incident has suddenly unified the opposition. What all kinds of back channels talks between the opposition parties, Congress, Trinamool, Samajwadi, JD(U) Left and others could not do, Sadhvi Jyoti has done in one single stroke, albeit by default.
This could cost the BJP heavily which needs support of some parties from the opposition ranks particularly the Congress, in getting some of the key legislations like Insurance Bill, auction of coal blocks, etc passed in the ongoing Winter Session.
BJP’s floor managers succeeded in getting the House to transact business in the Lok Sabha after Jyoti’s apology. But then the BJP with its allies have brute majority in Lok Sabha. In Rajya Sabha the unified opposition was unrelenting and all kinds of arguments made by the Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, as also by the Chair over limits to which the House could go for an incident that happened outside of Parliament, fell to deaf ears. The opposition kept on adding to its demands, an FIR against Jyoti, her removal from the Council of Ministers and an apology from the Prime Minister.
Modi didn’t really have a good talent pool for selecting his Council of Ministers. If he brought the likes of Manohar Parrikar and Suresh Prabhu from outside of available bench strength in Parliament to boost performance and delivery, he erred in inducting likes of Niranjan Jyoti. Another newly inducted Minister of State, Ram Shankar Katheria was in the news for wrong reasons as well.
Updated Date: Dec 03, 2014 10:23:58 IST